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Theodoret's People

Theodoret's People: Social Networks and Religious Conflict in Late Roman Syria

Adam M. Schor
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Theodoret's People
    Book Description:

    Theodoret's Peoplesheds new light on religious clashes of the mid-fifth century regarding the nature (or natures) of Christ. Adam M. Schor focuses on Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus, his Syrian allies, and his opponents, led by Alexandrian bishops Cyril and Dioscorus. Although both sets of clerics adhered to the Nicene creed, their contrasting theological statements led to hostilities, violence, and the permanent fracturing of the Christian community. Schor closely examines council transcripts, correspondence, and other records of communication. Using social network theory, he argues that Theodoret's doctrinal coalition was actually a meaningful community, bound by symbolic words and traditions, riven with internal rivalries, and embedded in a wider world of elite friendship and patronage.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94861-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the fall of 451, more than 350 bishops¹ gathered in Chalcedon, across the water from the Roman imperial palace, for a tense council. In theory these clerics led a single Christian church. Each week they preached a basic common message of brotherhood, love and faith. But most bishops were used to local authority. A gathering of so many chiefs strained the performance of Christian social ideals. On October eighth, the bishops entered the Church of St. Euphemia before a panel of imperial officials. Immediately they divided into two camps, one led by “Easterners” and the other by “Egyptians.” The...


    • 1 Traces of a Network: Friendship, Doctrine, and Clerical Communication, 423–451
      (pp. 19-39)

      It was a moment of complicated emotions as the clerics of Syria remembered their fallen godfather. Acacius, bishop of Beroea for nearly six decades, died in 437.¹ Several clerics expressed admiration for the departed.² Theodoret did so by commemorating him in theHistory of the Friends of God. Acacius had been a monastic student to great Syrian holy men. When the Nicene church needed him, however, he left his cell for the contentions of the urban clergy. It was then, according to Theodoret, that Acacius shone, revealing his “civic and ascetic virtues.” “By taking the exactness (akribeia) of the latter...

    • 2 Shape of a Network: Antiochene Relational Patterns
      (pp. 40-56)

      It was probably in 433 that Andreas of Samosata realized the full social cost of participating in doctrinal conflict. For three years this bishop had contributed to the debates. He wrote insistently against Cyril’sTwelve Anathemas against Nestorius. Despite missing the council of Ephesus, he joined his colleagues’ excommunication of the Egyptians. Meanwhile, he maintained key Syrian alliances, especially with Alexander of Hierapolis, John of Antioch, and Theodoret.¹ By late 432, it was clear that this trio was going to split. Alexander, John, and Theodoret argued over negotiating positions, while Andreas did shuttle diplomacy. He meddled enough to offend all...

    • 3 Roots of a Network: Theodoret on the Antiochene Clerical Heritage
      (pp. 57-80)

      By all rights the spring of 448 should have been joyous for Theodoret. The season marked his twenty-fifth year as bishop and the eighth of relative calm in the church. Theodoret had recently completed a commentary on Paul’s Epistles and a Christological dialogue. He could look forward to preaching in Antioch on these topics during his usual visit. The news of the season, however, put a damper on his routine. First came old accusations against allies, then an imperial letter relegating him to his diocese.¹ By the summer he was being called a crypto-Nestorian tyrant, with worse to come.


    • 4 Ephesus and After: Leadership, Doctrinal Crisis, and the Transformation of the Antiochene Network
      (pp. 81-109)

      Some time around 450 Nestorius, the empire’s most infamous living “heretic,” broke his silence with a memoir (known as theBook of Heracleides).¹ Nothing in two decades of controversy, he claims, had turned out right. Nestorius snipes first at his prosecutor. It was unconscionable that Cyril of Alexandria, “though he knew the faith, passed over it because of his enmity.” In fact, Cyril “cast [Nestorius] out, wounded and naked” and on the basis of rumor convicted him. Nestorius does not blame the emperor, who had been supportive until twisted monks seduced him. He is less kind to fellow Syrians, who...

    • 5 Forging Community: Theodoret’s Network and Its Fall
      (pp. 110-130)

      It was probably the summer of 448 when Theodoret received a key surveillance brief from his confidant, Basil of Seleucia in Isauria. For several months Theodoret had confronted shadowy opponents attacking Antiochene doctrine. Rumor had it that someone in Cilicia was preaching that God suffered—a red flag for altered allegiance. Theodoret had alerted the bishops of Cilicia,¹ but Basil was a more reliable spy. When Basil reported no sign of this heresy, Theodoret took joy at the “heartening news.” Then he made a new request. Alexandria had sent a prelate to the capital to run an anti-Theodoret campaign. “Let...


    • 6 Mediating Bishops: Patronage Roles and Relations in the Fifth Century
      (pp. 133-155)

      There were times when the non-clerical world demanded a bishop’s attention.

      John of Antioch was just starting to push reluctant colleagues toward doctrinal compromise in 432, when he heard of the new trouble facing a neighboring bishop. Seleucia Pieria was a busy port town. That summer it endured some form of public violence. John did not record the details; perhaps, as in Tarsus, there had been a clerical riot. He thanked God that the local bishop was unharmed. Nevertheless, the clergy had offended the port’saugustalis, and this midlevel bureaucrat¹ fined the see of Seleucia 8000solidi(111 pounds of...

    • 7 The Irreplaceable Theodoret: Patronage Performance and Social Strategy
      (pp. 156-179)

      At some point amid the doctrinal feuding of 434, Theodoret accepted a (non-doctrinal) request from a friend. Palladius, a philosopher, had legally contracted for a soldier to protect him. But “barbarians,” had “tossed this [soldier] to the denouncers,” probably to try him for desertion. Theodoret penned two letters to deal with the situation. First, he wrote to Titus, the general overseeing the proceedings. “Justice has many enemies,” Theodoret noted, “but injustice yields if the lovers of justice join the contest.” The bishop praised the fairness of his military correspondent as he asked for an “unbribed decision.” He encouraged the general...

    • 8 Patronage, Human and Divine: The Social Dynamics of Theodoret’s Christology
      (pp. 180-200)

      In the fall of 444, Dioscorus of Alexandria received a remarkable letter from a (temporarily tolerated) Syrian colleague. This papyrus was certainly expected. Dioscorus had written an accession letter, a public statement of faith, to which colleagues usually responded in cordial tones. So Theodoret wrote back with a panegyric. He praised Dioscorus’s “humble mindset,” (tou phronēmatos metrion), which he naturally associated with the example of Christ. But offering his own doctrinal statement, Theodoret took an intriguing turn:

      For though by nature (physei) God is . . . most high, by in-human-ating himself (anthrōpēsas) he took hold for himself of the...

  9. Epilogue: The Council of Chalcedon and the Antiochene Legacy
    (pp. 201-206)

    And so this book ends where it began, with the Council of Chalcedon, a moment of reckoning for the Antiochene network. The gathering in 451 did not end Theodoret’s career. One letter and a heresy catalog reveal his further efforts to claim influence.¹ Nor did the council end the conflicts over Christology, which raged for three centuries. The meeting in Chalcedon, however, redrew clerical relations throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The social dynamics of Chalcedon are too complicated to be fully covered in this volume. Here we shall merely glance at the positioning of known Antiochenes in relation to the council....

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 207-274)
    (pp. 275-324)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 325-342)